Portal pain stops projects' gain

Poorly constructed business cases and inflated business expectations will hamper about 40 percent of portal, document and content management, and collaborations projects in the year ahead.

These are the findings of Meta Group content and collaboration strategies senior program director John Brand, who believes that many portals created by organizations are simply ‘the world’s most expensive company newsletter’.

"There’s been no strong business case behind the development of these portals, the simple stuff has been done, but the complex issues have been under budgeted, leaving integration unaccounted for," Brand said.

One of the main problems that both vendor and user need to address, he said, is ‘empty’ and ‘useless’ portals, which organizations are not using to their full potential.

"The portal can often be viewed as a glorified intranet, businesses are not making use of things like process automation capabilities; they’re simply using the menial applications that don’t really contribute to an organization," Brand said.

He said no one out there is tackling the ‘useless’ portal problem, although Plumtree has probably been the most active in highlighting and addressing the problem and Plumtree's vice president of product marketing and management Glenn Kelman has it in his sights.

Kelman said it's strange, in the Asia-Pacific region, that you have to bust your butt to make clear to customers the importance of knowing what they want from a portal. "A lot of the time they’ve simply read about it in a magazine and decided to initiate a project," he said.

"At Plumtree, we try to be much more deliberate about building a business case, and talk to our customers about filling their portals with real applications, which deliver value to the customer."

Plumtree’s latest initiative has been to work together with Australian-based consulting company Collaborative Technologies, to release Web Applications Catalog as part of its Governance Solution.

Available now, the solutions are part of a new services offering based on Plumtree Content Server for documenting and governing the creation of Web applications throughout the enterprise.

With the Applications Catalog, organisations can establish processes for creating new applications, and help people to find any Web application registered in the Catalog, which is open to any application in the enterprise, regardless of whether it is powered by Plumtree’s Enterprise Web Suite or by competing technologies.

Rio Tinto has already deployed an early version of the Catalog to manage the applications, portlets and content available across its worldwide enterprise Web deployment.

"We needed a process for documenting what all these applications do, how they work and who is responsible for their maintenance," Rio Tinto leader for customer alignment for intranet development Nick Fouche said.

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